Budget Drama, Act III

          Two Wisconsinites collecting signatures.  Photo taken by the author.

There was a man standing next to the busy farm-supply store with a sign reading “Recall Scott Walker! Now!” He was holding a clipboard for people to sign their names to the petition to recall Wisconsin’s conservative Governor—but nobody stopped for him.

Wisconsin is a famous swing state. It’s been said that no Democratic president has been elected without Wisconsin’s support since the 1960’s, but in the 2010 Republican sweep, Gov. Scott Walker was brought into office to “open Wisconsin for business.” His inauguration was nothing short of a huge, conservative party—his speech was punctuated with cheers and the previous, Democratic governor was pushed out of office to a round of coughing from the audience.

A few weeks after his inauguration, Walker instituted new laws against collective bargaining. The fracas that followed came to be known as the “Wisconsin Budget Standoff.” The new laws prohibited teachers and other public workers from forming unions and bargaining with the state to get higher wages.

It also changed the structure of the teacher’s union by switching to a merit-based pay system in an attempt to encourage more young teachers to teach in Wisconsin’s struggling school system. Although these measures ended up saving the state millions of dollars, Democrats across the state protested loudly, gathering en masse at the State Capitol in Madison.

The Wisconsin Democrats believe that collective bargaining is a right, not a privilege. They say that Gov. Walker acted unfairly in taking away the teachers’ “inviolable” right to unionize, and for that, want to recall the Governor and replace him with a liberal who would probably waste the money Walker saved on something useless.

The Democrats started the recall efforts before it was even legal (according to the state Constitution, recall efforts cannot begin until at least a year has passed after the official was elected). At the Wisconsin State Fair in July, the Democrats put a recall ballot out on their table in the Exposition Center, attracting the ire of the WI GOP.

The GOP sent a few people to investigate, and the director of the Milwaukee County GOP determined that it was illegal for the Democrats to have the ballot out so early and mentioned that he’d likely complain to both the state election observation committee and the people in charge of the State Fair.

An occupier shaking his fists in anger. Photo courtesy of CNN.

When the recall effort officially started in the first weeks of November, a year after the governor was elected, the Wisconsin Democratic Party recruited volunteers to stand in locations around the state (like outside of local stores), knock on doors, and make phone calls to voters, attempting to get enough signatures to force a recall election.

But the Democrats have forgotten the silent majority—the huge electorate that swept Gov. Walker into office. The Democrats will only attract the irritation and negative attention of the conservatives in the state, who make up a majority of voters.

With only a few weeks left to file recall signatures, the Democrats are coming up short by some 35,000 signatures and are scrambling to get the rest before the Jan. 17 due date, proof that the Democrats will only gain cold fingers (from standing outdoors in the Wisconsin winter) from their misguided recall crusade.

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